Water Heater Gas Valve and Thermocouple Repairing

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Troubleshooting and Repairing Your Water Heater

If you want to learn a little more about how to troubleshoot and repair a water heater, then stay tuned; this blog post is for you.

I’m going to depart from my typical topics of photography and technology. When I created this channel, it was called Real World, and the idea behind it was to showcase situations that happen in the real world, like a broken furnace, AC unit, drywall repair, or in this case, a broken water heater.

Discovering the Issue

A few days ago, I discovered that there was no hot water. I’m using a water heater branded Richmond, made by Rheem, which I bought from Menards. They sell these brands in all the big box stores, and installing a water heater really isn’t a huge deal. I put this in just under a year ago, so it’s not even that old. When I discovered there was no hot water, I checked the pilot light, and it was not lit. You can relight the pilot yourself, which is what I attempted to do.

Understanding the Thermal Coupler

The idea behind relighting the pilot is that there is a thermal coupler, which is a device that sits in the pilot to let the gas valve know that the pilot is lit. This is really important because if the pilot’s not lit and your gas valve sends gas into the burner with nothing to light it, gas will just permeate through the area where the water heater is located, and that’s not good. When I attempted to light the pilot, it failed to stay lit as soon as I took my finger off the pilot button, which told me that it might be the thermal coupler.

Contacting the Manufacturer

Before doing anything, I decided to call the manufacturer. They confirmed with me that there was a defect. They had sent out a bunch of units that had either a defective thermal coupler or a defective valve. Although they sent me both, I didn’t want to wait for the thermal coupler because they sell it at Menards and other box stores. It wasn’t a big deal, so I just went ahead and bought one for around $10. This is the thermal coupler; it’s 24 inches in length, and they vary depending on the unit you have, but the principle is the same. You have this piece on the end, which sits inside the flame and sends a small current back through the wire and into the gas valve.

Replacing the Thermal Coupler

While I replaced the thermal coupler, it didn’t solve the problem. So, I quickly got a hold of the manufacturer again, and they agreed to send me a gas valve, which they overnighted to me. This is my old gas valve. If you’re not familiar with the gas valve, let me show this to you. It has a stem that sticks into the water tank, and the idea behind this stem is that it monitors the temperature of the water. When the water starts to go down in temperature, it opens up the gas line, fires up the igniter, and lights the flame to heat up your water. This is a critical component of the water heater.

Basic Maintenance

Something I want to talk about real quick is basic maintenance for your water heater. Every 6 months or maybe once a year, you should drain it to get the sediment out. This water heater is just under a year old, and I drained all the water out to take the gas valve out. When I did this, I looked inside the tank and saw a lot of sediment, so I decided to hook up my shop vac and used a ½ inch vinyl tube to try and suck out some of the sediment. That helped, and I was able to get a bunch of gunk out of there. Not that you have to do that, but a lot of that sediment may just drain out when you hook your garden hose to it.

Replacing the Gas Valve

Let’s get down to replacing the gas valve. Here’s the main gas line and the gas valve, which is turned off. I did all this before taking off the gas valve. You’ll see the gas line that goes into the water heater, the thermal couple, and the gas line for the pilot. This is the igniter as well. It’s pretty straightforward. I connected the garden hose to drain the tank. Once that’s hooked up, you just unscrew the gas valve. I was able to suction most of the sediment out, and it worked out well.

Reassembly of the Gas Valve

We’re going to start the reassembly of the gas valve. First, I want to tighten down the drain valve by turning it clockwise. Then, I’ll take off the hose. Now, let’s look at the new gas valve. It looks just like the old one. To tighten this, we can hand-tighten it and then use a piece of pipe for leverage. The new gas valve came with Teflon tape already on it, so I don’t need to add more. I’m going to hand-tighten it and then use the pipe to get it snug.

Connecting the Gas Lines

Next, I’ll connect the gas lines. I’ll start with the main gas line, followed by the gas line to the pilot valve, and then the thermal couple. I’ll use a wrench to tighten these connections. Finally, I’ll connect the ignition wire. Before filling the tank with water, I want to see if the pilot light will stay lit. If it does, that means we’ve solved the problem.

Checking for Leaks

Now, I’ll check for leaks using a bottle with water and some soap. I’ll spray this solution on the connections to see if any bubbles appear. If bubbles appear, that indicates a leak, and I’ll need to tighten the connections or reapply the pipe dope. Fortunately, I don’t see any bubbles, so we’re good to go.

Lighting the Pilot

To light the pilot, I’ll move the dial to the pilot setting, hold the pilot button down, and push the igniter. I’ll hold the pilot button for another 30 to 60 seconds to ensure the flame stays lit. If it does, that means the problem is fixed. I’ll then turn the gas off and fill the tank with water by opening the hot water faucets and turning the water line on.


I know this was a departure from my other videos, but I hope you found it useful. If you have problems with your water heater, these tips and tricks might point you in the right direction. If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe to the Real World channel for more content. Until the next post, take care of yourself and be safe.

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Jim Barnes
Jim Barnes
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